Seeberger v. Davenport Civil Rights Commission

The Fair Housing Act and its state and local analogs bar housing discrimination based on familial status and other bases in multiple ways. Some smaller landlords are exempt from certain provisions, such as the ban on evicting people for discriminatory reasons, but not from others, such as the bar on discriminatory statements and advertisements. Here, the Davenport Civil Rights Commission found that landlord Seeberger made statements that a reasonable listener would construe as evidencing a discriminatory preference against renting to certain people based on familial status. Every court to  consider the question has found equivalent laws regulating discriminatory statements consistent with the First Amendment, because such laws serve an important governmental objective and are narrowly tailored to regulate only commercial speech and only to the extent necessary.

In 2019, after the Iowa Court of Appeals found the landlord potentially liable, she filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition contends that, because the landlord is exempt from the ban on discriminatory evictions, the First Amendment bars regulation of her concededly discriminatory statements made in the course of an eviction. Public Citizen serves as co-counsel for the davenport Civil Rights Commission, opposing the petition for certiorari. The brief in opposition explains that the case meets none of the criteria for granting review.